#Humans: What makes people tick, an interview with Lesley Cordial

Humans // posted 08-10-2020

#Humans: What makes people tick, an interview with Lesley Cordial
FrieslandCampina and Better Future have worked together for five consecutive years now. Guiding 250+ academic potentials as they develop and transform into leaders who will have lasting, positive impact. In this interview we get to grips with why FrieslandCampina continues to invest in this longstanding partnership, and what Lesley’s personal drive is to push these leadership programmes forward. We talk personal missions, the intrinsic needs of human beings, and the need for sustainable businesses.

Hi Lesley, thanks for chatting with us. You have a diverse track record of jobs, what encouraged you to change roles to become Global Talent Manager at FrieslandCampina?
The red thread in all of those roles is people. I love meeting different people, different cultures. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick. Why some struggle and some thrive. Understanding what makes people resilient. What makes people leaders, and what makes other choose a different path. The role that I’m in now as Global Talent Manager is people-oriented role that defines: What does talent mean for FrieslandCampina?

With that interest, that passion, what’s your mission?
To help people find their way; to unlock their full potential. I’ve been able to experience many different opportunities throughout my career, and I would like to help others have the same. I used to go home, excited about many of the things that I was working on. Now I go home and think ‘I really helped someone today’. It makes you feel like you made a difference.

Making a difference, is that an intrinsic need for human beings in general?
It’s becoming more important. Nowadays many people want to feel that there’s a purpose, not just to their lives in general but to why they get up in the morning and go to work. It’s one of the top priorities of the next generation, who say: “I want to work for a sustainable company. I want to work for a company that’s going to make a difference.”

How do you see that for the future leaders? How can they add value and have meaning within the organisation?
At FrieslandCampina we believe in leading authentically. Connecting your own purpose to the purpose of the company. People can identify with leaders who have found a way to connect their own morals, values, ethics and standards to those of the company.

Leading authentically, how do you approach that?
It’s about how you deliver performance. At FrieslandCampina we’re finding ways to embed this in our leadership programmes. We want to encourage leaders to be genuine, open and transparent. Making it personal for everyone because one size doesn’t fit all.

Making it personal for everyone, how does that work?
It starts with a clear company aspiration: who and what are we? There are two aspects: what is the culture that we want to embrace, what is the type of leadership that we want to have, and how do we connect those two things. If your company aspiration isn’t clear, how can you ask people to embrace it and connect with it?

Then it’s the role of leaders to have open conversations. We encourage continuous dialogue. Rather than setting objectives at the start of the year, having a formal mid-year review, and an official end of year review, we keep the top and tail and have continuous dialogue throughout the rest of the year. Around objectives and results, and how to achieve them. That’s when mindset and behaviour come in. They’re the how part of the what; about embracing the culture.

We’re getting there, but it’s still a work in progress. FrieslandCampina is a company with a good heart. It has a great vision, believes in its people and strives to provide the best for its farmers, customers, consumers and employees.

What would your advice be for other organisations seeking purpose to attract and retain the right talent?
I think three things. Firstly, be clear about who you want to be. Reach into the organisation and talk with employees. A culture and value proposition should come from what’s already within the organisation. You can’t artificially create it; it has to grow organically. It’s an on-going process that’ll never be finished.

The second is, communicate. You can never overcommunicate. Keep talking and listening. Be consistent in how you communicate into the organisation and listen to what you get back. Have regular sense checks. How is the communication being received?

The third is listen to others. Once you’ve done the internal listening, step outside. Look at companies that are similar to yours; what are they doing? What are they doing well, what have they learnt? Connect with them. But also look into different industries, what are they doing differently and what can we learn from them? We aren’t simply going to get everything right from looking internally, we have to look externally. Be aware of what’s going on in the world.

The new approach sounds more sustainable, on many levels. What do you hope this transformation will bring for FrieslandCampina?
I think just that: sustainability. Consistency. Longevity. Although the biggest challenge of COVID-19 is the complete unknown. I think that one thing is certain: this world is not going to look the same six months from now.

Oil prices have gone negative. That’s never happened in history. The Olympics have never been cancelled except for a world war. We are in unprecedented times. If I look at how FrieslandCampina is coping, then it’s coping extremely well. When you look at the dedication, the passion, the motivation of the people it’s absolutely incredible. What we have built as an organisation will help us come out stronger.

With FrieslandCampina’s approach in mind, what’s your view on transforming businesses into a force for good?
I think all companies have to embrace a sustainable way of working to help save our planet. We all have our role to play within that. We have to find our way.

Sustainability is becoming an essential as a way of working. Many potential employees are attracted by an organisation that puts sustainability so central in its ambitions and strategy. Through that, business and performance steps up. It’s therefore important to integrate sustainability in everything we do. It’s not a more expensive way of working, it’s the only way of working. The consumer shouldn’t have to choose, there should only be one option. Sustainable products.

Becoming sustainable, more diverse and inclusive, or adding value to society isn’t just a strategy. It’s a process that you have to work on continuously. As they often say: it’s not about the destination, but about the journey towards that goal or ambition. It might not be the easy way, but it’s the only way. 

Read the full-length article about LEAP, the mission-driven leadership programme that we co-created with FrieslandCampina to inspire and empower their people.

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